I’m still trying to wrap my brain around everything that happened this weekend.

How did I end up on a runway in Trump International Hotel wearing a couture gown made by designer Andre Soriano?!

The glitz and glamour of which little girls dream about materialized in the blink of an eye and here I am looking like Jessica Rabbit mingling with people this lowly trailer park girl was never supposed to hang with.

But God!

I knew He was in the thick of it right from the beginning.

My childhood friend Katherine called me and asked to meet because she felt the Lord prompting her to reach out. We bonded like never before. Weeks later she called she with this opportunity and I ran out the door in high heels to get fitted for a dress!

When I arrived I noticed a beautiful women quietly standing to the side. She had a presence about her that was even more pleasant than her appearance.

She introduced herself as Maria Magdalena. Given my relation to this biblical figure I was surprised and pleased at her boldness. I would meet Maria once again at the networking function on Saturday.

Katherine and I arrived a bit late to the function but right on time for what the Lord had planned. We chatted and made introductions.

One woman spontaneously began to pray for me and it set my course for the rest of the weekend.

I prayed for her as well.

“It is servitude without boundary that bestows true splendor.”

Nearby, Katherine was discussing her massage therapy business and demonstrated a hand massage for one woman. This women, poised and elegant, began to pour out her heart about a recent loss she had experienced.

I watched Katherine’s face change as she grasped for the appropriate response but alas there was none. I leaned in and hugged the woman.

She shared more about her grief and I asked if I could pray for her. “Yes, please!”

Before we could begin Maria Magdalena approached and said, “are you praying without me?”

“We are going to pray and lay hands on this women, would you like to join us?” I responded.

There in the middle of the cocktail party the three of us encompassed this women and prayed aloud, each as the Lord prompted.

It was magnificent! True splendor!

Following that event I was able to pray for yet another women. Morgan Murtaugh will be the youngest woman elected to Congress and I intend to pray this young lady all the way through. I say “will” because I believe in her and what she stands for. When I asked her how I can pray for her she said, “guidance.”

Right before the fashion show Morgan sought me out and asked me to pray for her once more. This girl is a gem, y’all! I am so honored to be a part of her journey!

So that is what the fashion show turned into for me. Same thing as always…

Ministry, but with makeup and hair!

The dressing up part was so much fun! I got to live out the Cinderella story for a day, but it’s like I tell my daughter Evelyn who is obsessed with princesses…

The thing that made Cinderella so beautiful was her heart.

It is servitude without boundary that bestows true splendor.

Sure, I looked amazing because I was wearing couture and had my hair and makeup styled. But I felt amazing because my heart was overflowing.

I am amazing because of the Holy Spirit and I got to remind people of that each time they complimented me!

The following day I was back to sweeping up crumbs and dirty dishes. I get to serve the little disciples we are raising instead of high powered fashion designers and congressmen and women.

But I left a glass slipper…

Only it is the example of servitude instead of a shoe, and it only fits on those who can squeeze their ego into it.

May your ego be small today and your service remarkable!

Your sister,

Monica

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Our second daughter, Evelyn, was sent home sick from school yesterday.

When I arrived to pick her up the nurse informed me she was sleeping. However, when I peeked around the curtain I saw Evelyn smiling and rolling over at the sound of my voice. She didn’t seem sick at all with that grin on her face, but I was told that she had gotten physically ill after lunch and barely made it to the trash can.

You wouldn’t know it to look at her lying there full of hope for a day home with mom.

The nurse also informed me that she would be unable to come to school to following day because she has to be 24 hours without a repeat occurrence. I loaded Evelyn up into the truck and we headed home.

I had a hundred things to do including writing a final I had lost the instructions for, laundry, church responsibilities, and all the normal mom stuff.

This morning she came to me with my notepad from the refrigerator requesting to use it. She wanted to make a list of all the things we could do or what we can get from the store “ifwe go,” she said.

The tone of her voice led me to believe she was already convinced that we would be going to said store and purchasing these things she was hoping for.

The cautious mom in me turned to her ready to speak unintentional words of death. Words that would slowly kill off her hopeful spirit over the years to come…

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

I cringe now as I recount my overuse of that phrase throughout the years. Why on earth have I been attempting to convince my children to be less hopeful?!

Perhaps this is why depression is so pervasive in our country. For decades we have been hearing and repeating, “Don’t get your hopes up!”

Can we pretend any longer to be surprised that 3 MILLION people a YEAR struggle with hopelessness, when THESE are the words we choose for our children? Why are the cases happening to younger and younger people?

We blame the schools, the pressures to achieve, bullying… the list goes on. Could it be that we are overlooking the most fundamental aspect of fighting depression?

Hope.

We have lost it and we have been demanding our children lose it as well.

We convince them to leave behind their high, unrealistic hopes and move forward with reason to attainable goals.

Ones that won’t crush their hopes.

The problem is that every goal needs some degree of hope to be achieved. It is not that the pressures of academic achievement are too high but that we are expecting the achievement while depriving our children of vital resources to get there.

I know a fifteen year old who is about to take college courses! She is the norm in her family. I have told her mother I think their basement looks like an academic sweatshop. (It does)

And yet, this girl and her family are some of the most joyful, undepressed people I know.

They smile. ALL. THE. TIME. It’s kind of creepy at first because it’s so odd for our society to see… but it’s really just a heavy dose of (you guessed it),

HOPE!

I have told these young ladies that I am grateful they are a part of our lives and great role models for our young girls. They are the most God-fearing, creative, intelligent, bold young women I have ever met.

I want our kids to be like that!

So, little Eve… dream on about your grocery store trip and whether you will purchase Mad-Libs or a journal if I drag you out of the house in the rain today.

Dream whatever dreams God has put in your heart today!

I promise not to crush them with my logic and desire to keep you safe. Then when you are grown and pursuing your own calling people will not have to tell you to “be yourself” and “dream big“.

You’ll already be doing it in the childlike way God desires for you.

This is my greatest hope for you… That you keep HIGH hopes and ignore the naysayings, even when the person closest to you is speaking death over your dreams.

May we all increase in hope today. May we be hope filled and hope speaking children of the Lord.

Your sister,

Monica

I sat in my husband’s office yesterday listening to him share about a church someone recommended to him. Being the vigilant theologian I am, I immediately knew what was off just by the denomination.

Extending the benefit of the doubt, I looked up the website anyhow. I was still kind of looking to prove myself right but I tried to be as non-biased as possible.

It didn’t take long to confirm that this church does not welcome women in their leadership.

” ________ churches are governed on the local level by “sessions”, a group of men that have been set apart by the local and regional bodies of the church”

My heart sped up a bit as I tried to convey to my husband that he had found yet another church that couldn’t get with Jesus’s position on the role women play in the body of believers.

His response? “Let’s try to keep an open mind”

O-kaaayy…

I moved on. At least I tried.

After about 15 minutes of trying to silently process what had just happened, he noticed my demeanor and asked our kids to step out of the room. He stared at me.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Then correcting myself I stated what I really believed:

You don’t want to talk about it.”

He already knew.

What he didn’t know was the pain it caused. That I could not wrap my brain around being “open minded” regarding such things.

“If the website said ‘churches are governed by a group of white people set apart by the local and regional bodies of the church’, we would immediately know something was wrong, not try to be ‘open-minded’,” I said angrily.

He asked why I was angry, assuming it had to do with what I want to do in ministry. I had to explain the greater implications of this type of discriminatory mindset in our churches.

The fact that I had to have this discussion with my own husband who loves and respects me (and whom I follow unashamedly), brought a harsh reminder that we need to keep talking about this.

The church is finally making moves to attain racial reconciliation and yet our homes are still afflicted with ignorance.

I am applauded for changing an alternator one day and the next I’m supposed to be open-minded about establishments (that are meant to reflect the heart of God) telling women that we are “valued and equal” in a tone like they are expecting to get a medal for being so progressive.

I don’t need you to tell me my value. My Lord told me who I am. Likewise, I look to Him to tell me what I can and cannot do in His Church.

I am deeply grieved by the number of women who have been conditioned to accept this treatment as tolerable and even ideal.

Women who have heard things like what I just read in this church’s belief statements:

“Doubtless the presence of women serving in positions of spiritual leadership can undermine the God ordained role of spiritual headship that their husbands (and other husbands) are to play.”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if a women serving in a spiritual leadership role undermines your “authority” and she’s not even your wife, you’ve got some other issues that need to be worked out with the Lord.

I’m not out here trying to gain support from our brothers to speak up against this disorder. I tried that already. It was ridiculously unsuccessful. (Likely because they are unaware of how bad it really is just like my husband was.)

This article is for us women.

Let this marinate:

There is only one teacher. That is God. If you are a willing vessel He will teach through you with all authority.

One of the most interesting, yet heartbreaking things I recently learned was the history of the deacons’ white gloves in African American churches.

The purpose of the gloves was to cover their hands as they served in white churches because they were not allowed to touch white people. To this day many churches still have their deacons wear gloves and don’t know the painful history.

Women who serve proudly in churches that relegate them to “appropriate ministry roles” are devastatingly similar to the deacons who still cover their hands.

You walk around in bondage to man-made rules oblivious to the freedom that is available to you, often doing so proudly.

That’s not your fault. Nobody told you how it got this way.

It’s time to take the gloves off.

Weather man or woman, if this article got your blood pumping and you need to decry the error of what I have written… I plead with you to first fully examine your own position in the presence of God.

Come correct and we can have a necessary dialog.

Worst case scenario, we disagree and I keep speaking truth because that’s what I was made for. Regardless, I’m going to love you all anyway… because I was made for that too.

May you be broken and blessed by this today.

Your sister,

Monica

I am not here to put my two cents in on what Cosby may or may not have done.

I trust the Lord will sort that out and work in our justice system as necessary.

I am, however, glad to hear that there is a retrial on the horizon.

Regardless of the outcome, the fact that this case is being given a retrial is a huge indicator of how far America has come in regard to treating women as fully human; a sentiment we have seen eerily echoing out from our past sins of racism.

(imagine the combination of both prejudices that “angry” black women have to deal with every day in America)

Women in general have had a rough go of it for centuries. We were reminded of this just yesterday as dialog about women being the first to preach a risen Savior flooded our social media feeds (mine anyway), and people lashed out in protest.

There’s a difference between preacher and pastor” one man commented, clinging to his superiority.

I kept my comments to myself and decided to enjoy Easter with my family, sans debate on church patriarchy. I have seen enough to know that God is at work (still) and there is no need to argue on the matter.

I believe however, that He is on the side of the oppressed and that our nation is now having to face the harsh reality women have lived for so long.

In the coming year, we will see one man (Cosby) held accountable for his alleged actions against women. America is finally moving in the direction of Jesus’s ideal of how we should respect and value one another as humans. We’ve got a long way to go, albeit, but it gives me hope nevertheless.

It gives me hope that the church will continue to lead the way for our equality despite the naysayers and power-seekers.

It gives me hope that this type of thing could be just what we need for whole church to begin realizing the lingering bias and ignorance.

It gives me hope that my daughter, who is 8 and wants to be a pastor someday, will not have her dream ripped away by some fool that worships law over the Lord.

So, I am grateful that the Lord works all things for good. All the horrible things these women have had to endure at the hands of politicians, celebrities, and for many of us, even our family members…

All these things are being worked together for our good. The world is taking notice of our struggle and God is on our side.

For my brothers and sisters, I ask you to decide where you stand.

Will you be on the right side of history when our nation looks back on these events? Will you bear the load of your fellow Americans when we could not speak for ourselves? Or will you turn your face away because it is just easier not to listen?

I pray your heart is softened and your eyes are opened to the struggles of those around you today and every day.

Your sister,

Monica

Waiting for us at the end of my husband’s year long deployment was a loving reunion embroidered with hints of tears, fears and relief.

It was also the beginning of the season of transition. A transition I had been uneasy about since I began hearing stories of other women who had husbands in military service.

The anticipation kept me awake at night wondering what might be on the horizon.

Would he adjust well?

Quickly or slowly?

How much space do I give him?

How will the kids adapt?

What will I do when I no longer have time to blog as often or I have to leave for school when I would rather be home?

What about all the things I picked up to fill my time? My book? Serving at church? How would my relationship with my kids change? What will people think when they get to know my husband? I’ve built an entirely new social life while he was away…

I was warned that there may be a power struggle between us.

We had some real issues before he left. Would it be like starting from scratch or would we carry the past hurt after all this time?

Surprisingly, the power struggle that so often accompanies military homecomings has occurred less during this transition than it had before his deployment. I still like to have my way and stomp my feet mind you, but I am more quickly inclined to pass the reigns to my hubby than I had ever been before.

Being concerned that your loved one may get blown up by a bomb on any given day tends to make the dirty socks under the dining room table look like not such a big deal.

I have a healthier perception of what is important, necessary, and considered an emergency. My patience has grown because of this.

I was more than happy to pass the leadership baton to Peter upon re-entry. He walked in saying that he wanted to sit back and ease slowly into my program. He did just the opposite.

He started leading!

Thank the Lord! Hallelujah! I have been praying for this for so long!

(Prior to now, however, I was holding the reins tightly in my own hands while screaming at him to take them)

In his absence I began to see the imbalance caused within a home when the father is not present. I saw this growing up in my own home but a child tends to block it out rather than consider the deeper effects of his absence.

I have now witnessed, as a wife and mother, the lack of direction that exists when the head of the home is away. The lack of obedience.

I give my children plenty of directions. I have plenty of vision which I share with them. I say the things that he says in the EXACT… SAME… WAY. Still, their response to him is different.

There is something about a father’s voice that in and of itself is a call to action.

Something I am incapable of reproducing.

(Which is why I don’t believe men or women should lead the church but the Father through them; only the Father has authority and we must learn His voice.)

There was a point in time where I would become very frustrated and even angry about this.

“Why don’t they listen to me?!”

I would cry out around the house as the children disobeyed and ignored me. Some days I would drop to the ground and pray, hoping to find some peace so that my complaining wouldn’t do anymore damage. As some of you know I’ve had quite a struggle with complaining and yelling. (you can also read about that here and here)

That too has come to rest. I’ve got my leader back and I know I can trust him.

It’s easier to let go of control when you have a trustworthy leader.

When Peter looks at me squarely and says “we’re not going to yell in this house,” I know that even though I still struggle I have support in this endeavor.

We are in agreement.

Sameness of vision and is necessary for anyone to grow. My husband has also decided to drop the curse-words (a thing he has always leaned on for expressing himself.) He has decided to subject himself to a similar measure of control in that regard. No more cursing. We will support each other in this and we have been for the last several weeks.

As a team we have already come farther than was ever possible as the two unique entities we kept trying to be.

I battled constantly to control my mouth during our separation over this last year. I prayed. I talked about it. I wrote about it. I did my best to exercise self-control… But absolutely none of these things were sufficient when I was lacking accountability; when I was lacking a leader who I had chosen to follow and trust.

Perhaps the Lord gives us these leaders (our men) because we need them? Following Jesus in singleness is one thing, but when we enter into family with all the messiness and crazy good insanity it brings, we need a physical leader we can see and be accountable to help build us up in Christ. (this goes both ways of course)

So I am more than glad to share with you, my friends, that the missing piece to overcoming my struggle at home has finally returned. I can, and now do, more effectively keep myself from using my words as daggers and my attitude in a controlling way.

I can “let go and let God” more readily knowing my husband is here to support me in that.

I want to encourage all of you today to look to your spouse as the possible missing piece in your battle armor. We’ve got spiritual armor for sure and YES, put that on daily! But for the everyday struggle against flesh, even if it seems to be your spouse (hint: it’s often not them) we have an underutilized resource in our significant other.

Let yourself be led in humility in your marriage, regardless of your gender, so that you may be built up in your walk with Christ.

I have found this to be very pertinent factor in my own sanctification. I pray you do as well.

Your sister,

Monica

There is little more humbling than to acquire a platform and then have nothing to say.

This is the great fear of everyone who has ever spoken in public, with the exception of narcissists who think they always have something important to say.

I have never had this problem.

I have the opposite dilemma. Though I am not fooled into believing everything I say has meaning and importance, I DO find myself talking too much.

It’s really hard for me to control my mouth.

I LOVE to talk! Matter fact, I’m talking right now! I don’t even write these blogs half the time, I just speak them using the voice feature on my phone or some other device!

But there are times when I really do need to just shut up.

On two occasions now I have decided to fast from unnecessary speech. The tongue is the most difficult thing to control, but I cannot relent. I know in my heart that I would benefit from shutting my mouth. Of course this is far more difficult to implement than to say. Usually, about two days in, I start complaining again.

I hate being a complainer!

I grew up in an environment where complaining was considered “expression” right along with curse-words. In a house of four daughters and one often exhausted single-mother, whoever spoke the loudest (or screamed rather) was the one who was heard.

Being loud was a survival mechanism.

It has taken me 33 years of my life to come to the realization that this is not only unhealthy, but that I am behaving in a rather infantile manner when I shout and complain. There are plenty of other maladaptive, manipulative behaviors we humans exhibit, these are just the ones I struggle with.

Anyhow, revelation of this maladaptive behavior I still carry has not aided me any in correcting it.

I still yell. Occasionally I hit something.

I try to make that something a half rack of weights rather than a door or wall (it’s not people anymore these days, thank God), but my lifestyle does not afford me that flexibility every time I need it.

So… After hearing for years from my husband that I am:

1) a little crazy and

2) I need to be quiet (yes we are still married)

I have now heard the same thingfrom my mentor. The good news is I finally got a mentor! The bad news is, he basically just told me that I’m crazy and I need to shut up more!

Now I have to go back to my husband and tell him that I have heard the exact words he has been telling me for years and yet now they finally struck a chord (facepalm).

*in my defense, it is always easier to take correction from someone who is not I am not emotionally tied to… which is why everyone should have a mentor.

Nevertheless, here I stand. Responsible for my own actions.

After all of my frustration and rumination over the past and how I grew up in my home, on the streets, and in the clubs all that matters is self control.

I don’t get a pass because I got dealt a crappy hand.

There is no magical prayer that is going to cause God to get me to shut my mouth from complaining or ranting on my children. (I tried that and it worked but only for a little while.)

The hard cold reality is that I need to stop it. I need to exercise self-control.

I have a choice to make every single time that maladaptive, frightened, angry, toddler Monica decides to show her ugly face. I have a choice to look that person I used to be squarely in the eye and tell her that she doesn’t live here anymore.

And the only way to get my point across clearly is by saying nothing.

I’m going to let that little tyrant stomp her feet and scream until her face turns blue and not open my mouth or share a word of what she is thinking.

I will wait for the chaos in my mind to dissipate.

When that childish, has-been, shadow of me passes out like a toddler on the floor with no more energy left, I’m going to sing and dance around my house with the victory of Christ!

I will have come one step closer to shaping my home into the home it was always meant to be and I have always wanted it to be. I will truly be able to say with each passing day “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

I will lead the way!

I will embrace the influence I have in my home as a woman of God. Just because something is bubbling up inside of me, doesn’t mean I have to speak it into this world! It may not be the right time, context, or in the right spirit.

Discernment is my best friend, but my ride or die is Silence. She’s got my back when nobody else does… even myself.

For all of you fellow crazies out there I just wanted to let you know I love you with all my heart with the love of Christ and you are (still) not alone.

Don’t ever change for anyone but the Lord. All else is vanity.

He knows your heart because He gave it to you and it is His own. You, we, will overcome. Till next time.

Your sister,

Monica

Over the last couple of weeks it has come to my attention that there are certain things, certain patterns, in my life that I do not possess the power to break.

Of course I am aware that without the Lord I am unable to do many things. But what I’m talking about here is habitual, patterns of sin and my frustration in not being able to overcome them.

These patterns of sin have a way of wearing us down. We battle them in our own power for so long, trying to move the mountain of self will run riot, and then give up. We decide to just “live with it”.

When I came to Christ I walked away from many things that I knew were not glorifying to Him and who I wanted to be in Him.

Other things, these habits, were not so easy to leave behind.

In fact I discussed one of these things in my last blog post. It happens to be something that many of us struggle with. Especially the moms out there.

As usual God was right on time with an answer.

No sooner had I published the blog post, than I received a solution. Sitting in my Theology and Practice of Ministry class, I listened carefully to the wise words of my teacher (a woman with twenty plus years of ministry under her belt, the type of woman we need more of in the church).

Her words, though convicting, fell like a soft embrace around my open wounds of doubt. “I know the Lord is capable, but I am incapable. Why can I not change my behavior?” I bemoaned.

“They are patterns. You must pray “God, cause me ________.”

As wonderful as this sounded and comforting as it was (because any option was better than nothing and I had exhausted them all), my hope was seasoned with reservation.

Thank the Lord only a mustard-seed-sized faith is enough!

Since that day (exactly six days ago) I have begun every morning with that prayer.

“Father, cause me. Cause me to be more kind with my words and tone toward my children. Cause me to walk in Your Will and not my own.”

Make me do it!

Order my steps in Your Word!

There was a time I hurled similar words at my earthy parents, but they were meant to be challenging rather than submissive.

I now bring that same zeal, that same stubbornness, to the Lord in my request.

I have always been rough around the edges. Unrefined, raw, and wild. I thought for a long time that God wanted me to calm down. To be pleasant, sweet and light like some of my Christian sisters. Not so. As I wrote recently in a private worship moment:

“I was wild and running from You

Never wanting to be tamed

Come to find all You desire

Is that I’m wild for Your name”

It was quite a relief to realize that I was not in sin because of who I am; I am not fundamentally flawed in some way. God has made me exactly as I am supposed to be and redeems me from sin I impose upon His perfect creation.

I was simply misusing my zeal!

He made me to be passionate, wild, and even aggressive at times. This is a reflection of Him and His kingdom!

Does this look tame to you? Because it’s the image God chose to use to describe Himself and His people are in His image…

The problem is that I kept taking the ‘easy’ way out (in hindsight it was SO not easier!) But, it was less work upfrontto throw my will and weight around than to go toe-to-toe with an Almighty God and beg Him to “make me do it” His way.

Now, I ask. And He answers!

Each day becomes easier as I press into His will and choose surrender. His yoke is truly light in contrast to the weight I was lugging around!

And the best part? I get to be me! Thereal me who is found in Him! I don’t have to sacrifice my zeal, I just have to re-purpose it. To rightly purpose it in a way that honors His will instead of my own.

Why on earth would I do that?

Because He loves me and He made me!

He alone knows the plans for my life and He has designed me specifically for each task.

You are no different.

I pray that this simple prayer is a blessing to those of you who still struggle like I have. I’m sure I will continue, as is our life in this flesh, but I pray all of us find increasing freedom with each new day.

Be who you truly are in Him. Submit that self to His will daily, beg for His intervention, and watch the miracles form from the inside out.

This, my friends, is how we change the world! One person at a time; starting with the self (which only God can change).

Until next time, may you be encouraged and conscious of the God who is always lovingly conscious of you.

Your sister,

Monica